Wednesday, January 24, 2007

"The Way I Want To Be" / The Village Green

In the wonderful world of the internet, it's amazing what pops up with an innocent Google. I was looking for information about the Kinks' landmark 1968 album The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, and what am I bounced to but the website for this young band from Portland, Oregon. The fact that they chose this name, though, is proof that they admire the Kinks -- and, it seems, lots of other British Invasion bands. The weird thing is that when these songs come up on my shuffle, I start thinking, "Who is this? The Tremeloes? The Searchers? The Small Faces?" You'd never guess they were a 21st-century band, they've absorbed the Beat Era sound so well. For me, that's a good thing.

I dig this song's skippy syncopation, its chunky guitars, and that plaintive lead vocal -- I swear that guy's putting on a British accent, or at any rate the accent of a British rocker trying to sound like a Delta bluesman. The melodic line flirts and dances all over the place; my head bobs up and down without my realizing it.

But as you'd expect from musicians who cite Ray Davies as a major influence, their lyrics put a darker spin on things: As upbeat and bouncy as this track sounds, it's sung by a misfit personality, a square peg twisting and wrenching around in his round hole. "I see the sun rising," he begins -- standard song opening, no problem -- but then it turns sour: "up through the stormy haze / Clouds in my eyes hide the view in this lonely place / All that I see turns to blank when I'm on my knees / All that I know turns to dust, and I don't believe..." Whoa, sorry I asked.

And then here's the chorus: "Like taking the sunrise from the morning / Stealing the water from the rain / Clearing the gutter from the ghetto / All of my life has been the same / All of my life I've lived forever / All of my life I've been in pain / Praying to God that there's no heaven / Give me the water, the way I want to be." I'm not a hundred percent sure I've transcribed those words right, but you get the point. It's pessimistic, but damn poetic -- any guy who can play with language this way has not signed out of life, no matter what he thinks. The guitar solo towards the end bursts with energy, a vigorous drumbeat whips along smartly, and somehow it's not nearly as depressing as it ought to be.

But that's just my take on the song -- follow this link and have a listen and let me know what you think.

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